WWE SmackDown Results: Winners, Grades, Reaction, Highlights from January 22
As WWE prepares for the Royal Rumble on January 31, it's all hands on deck as more and more Superstars declare their entries and attempt to qualify for the titular Rumble matches.
This week's SmackDown continued to build up the pay-per-view while also dealing with some in-house business for the blue brand.
After earning a title shot by defeating Sami Zayn last week, Apollo Crews challenged Big E in a match for the Intercontinental Championship.
We also saw Bayley and Bianca Belair compete on an obstacle course to see which one was the superior athlete, and Roman Reigns and Kevin Owens prepared for their showdown at The Royal Rumble.
Let's look at everything that happened on Friday's show.
SmackDown opened with a video package recapping what happened last week with Reigns and Adam Pearce before The Tribal Chief and Paul Heyman made their way to the ring.
Reigns said that while Owens and Pearce might have put one over on him, he is the champion because he doesn't believe in the mentality of "Card subject to change." He said his back is starting to hurt from carrying this company for years.
Pearce came out and said this has gone too far and things are getting out of control. Reigns said the only thing that is out of control is Owens being in a title match.
Reigns felt disrespected and had Heyman rip into Pearce. This led to Heyman challenging Pearce to a match, which was quickly accepted.
Pearce has grown into a great on-screen authority figure, and seeing him used in more meaningful ways in recent weeks has been a lot of fun.
This was a solid opening segment that probably lasted a few minutes longer than it needed to but never became insufferable.
Reigns was more vocal than usual, which helped express his rage at being tricked. Despite being a heel, almost everything he said was true, especially when it came to his health.
The Riott Squad vs. Charlotte and Asuka
The women's tag team champions took a trip to the blue brand this week to take on Liv Morgan and Ruby Riott, with Billie Kay in their corner.
The Queen and Riott started the match with a basic lockup and takedown combination. Asuka got the tag and ran Riott over with a shoulder tackle.
Morgan made a blind tag and hit a dropkick to Charlotte while she was distracted with Kay. She scored a two-count with a crossbody from the top rope. After a break, Riott and Morgan still had the upper hand.
Asuka tagged in and hit a running knee, but Riott was there to break up the pin. Riott had Asuka pinned, but Kay accidentally distracted the ref. The Empress recovered and tagged in The Queen to hit Natural Selection for the win.
We are only a couple of weeks into this angle, but Kay is already impacting the outcome of The Riott Squad's matches in a negative way, which means this union is doomed to fail.
The match itself was pretty good and gave all four women a chance to showcase their skills. Morgan and Riott looked especially good despite Kay's involvement.
The women's tag team division needs a lot of work, but if The Riott Squad is one of the main duos holding it down, there is hope that it can improve in 2021.
Cesaro vs. Dolph Ziggler
Daniel Bryan came out to talk about how The Royal Rumble event always makes him feel excited. He was eventually interrupted by Cesaro, who rubbed in how he beat Bryan last week.
Cesaro issued an open challenge, and Dolph Ziggler answered the call. We returned from a commercial to see the match getting going. They fought for control with a series of holds and reversals.
The Swiss Cyborg nailed an uppercut in the corner and swung Ziggler around by his feet. They went back and forth with near falls until The Showoff hit the Zig Zag for a two-count. Cesaro caught him and hit the Neutralizer for the win.
This was what pro wrestling could be. Cesaro and Ziggler are miles ahead of most of the roster in terms of technical ability, and they didn't even need a long match to prove how good they are.
A few more minutes would have helped, but they packed a lot into the time they had and told a solid story from bell to bell while Bryan provided context on commentary.
Between this and his win over Bryan last week, Cesaro appears to be getting a push heading into the men's Royal Rumble match. Even if he doesn't win at the PPV, it's awesome to see a talented performer being used the right way for once.
Sasha Banks vs. Reginald
Reginald tried to win over Sasha Banks with a rose at the start of the match, but she smacked the taste out of his mouth. She tried to take him down, but he flipped up to his feet.
He grabbed Banks by the waist, but she reversed it. He rolled right out of the ring, and he backflipped off of the apron just to show off. The Boss made him pay with a baseball slide dropkick.
Banks took him down with a wheelbarrow bulldog but missed a meteora in the corner. Reginald ate a knee to the face but caught her in a crossbody. She sent him out of the ring with an arm drag and took him down with a meteora from the apron.
She eventually brought him down into the Bank Statement for the submission victory.
As impressive as some of Reginald's acrobatics were, this match still had some sloppy moments and awkward spots that would have benefitted from this bout being pre-taped.
Still, this was better than anyone expected it to be, so that's a plus. The feud between Carmella and Banks didn't need this, but it was a fun change of pace from what we have seen in the past.
WWE has always shied away from intergender wrestling, so it will be interesting to see if we get more matches like this down the road.
Big E vs. Apollo Crews (IC Title)
As soon as the bell rang, Big E hit a huge belly to belly suplex followed by a splash on the apron. Crews fired back with a couple of kicks that rocked the champ. He got a quick two-count with a standing moonsault and stayed on the big man with a pair of German suplexes.
Big E prevented a third and hit a big urinagi slam for another near-fall. Crews fought him off in the corner with a few headbutts. Sami Zayn had handcuffed himself in the aisle as a protest, but he released himself and ran to the ring to hit both men with Helluva Kicks to cause a no-contest finish.
The match was just getting going when Zayn interfered, so it ended up stopping short of reaching its full potential in many ways.
This might keep the storyline going, but it still robbed us of what could have been a great title fight, so it's hard not to be a little mad about it.
Crews, Zayn and Big E will likely end up in a triple threat match at The Royal Rumble to settle this once and for all.
Bayley vs. Bianca Belair Obstacle Course Challenge
Bayley gave us a rundown of the obstacles before they took to the course. She decided to run the course first and pushed Belair out of the way.
She took her time getting through each obstacle and ended up cheating by running around the walls that were set up instead of climbing over them. She ended with a time of 1:12.
Before Belair took her turn, Bayley had some of the obstacles made more difficult. Belair still flew through the course, but when she got to the fireman's carry, she had to carry Otis instead of Chad Gable. She still did it and beat Bayley's time by 17 seconds.
Bayley attacked her and beat her down before throwing her into the pole of a basketball hoop that was part of the course.
This was nothing special in terms of entertainment value, but Belair's physical prowess made it more enjoyable than it would have been without her.
We all saw this ending with an attack, so there was no surprise or swerve. It played out how it needed to, even if it was the most predictable thing on the show.
King Corbin vs. Dominik Mysterio
Dominik Mysterio was looking to get some payback on Baron Corbin after The King defeated his father last week. Corbin's knights were absent once again.
Dom went right after him and hit a few quick strikes before he sent Corbin out of the ring. The King leveled him with a clothesline for a two-count.
Corbin was able to secure the win with The End of Days.
This wasn't bad, but it also wasn't good. It just...was. We'll move on and forget about this in a week or two after one of the Mysterios beats Corbin in a rematch.
It was nice to see Dominik again, but it's hard not to wonder why WWE had him skip NXT altogether. He could benefit from having more time to polish his mic skills.
Adam Pearce vs. Paul Heyman
As Heyman made his way to the ring, he pretended to suffer a leg injury. He did the same thing Pearce did last week and named a replacement. That is when Reigns came to the ring.
As soon as he hit the ring, The Tribal Chief nailed him with a Superman Punch. Pearce tried to come back, but a low blow stopped him in his tracks.
KO came out of nowhere and saved Pearce from certain destruction by attacking the universal champion. They brawled near the LED screens with fans on them before going back to the ring.
Owens blocked a Superman Punch and hit a Stunner. It took several officials to keep them apart, and even then, they still managed to get to each other a few times. KO hit a second Stunner before he put Reigns through the announce table with a Popup Powerbomb.
We might not have gotten to see Pearce come out of retirement to hand Heyman a beating, but we did get to see Owens destroy Reigns, so the show had a happy ending.
It was clear Heyman was never going to have a real match, but there was still hope for Pearce to get in a few good shots. Maybe he will have another chance in the future.
The feud between Reigns and KO is being carried solely by the skill of the two men involved. The storyline is nothing special or original, but how it is being executed has been fun to watch.